Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape

31Oct/104

Fat, tossers and shrinking black women

She's shrinking!

It might sound like the start of a bad joke, or a niche porn site, but it's all relevant. What ties together the obesity epidemic, how black women are shrinking across the US and the odd bit of sexual release? And what can explain why the whole world appears to be getting fatter and fatter? For more, read on...

Genetic expression

A fit body is the optimum expression of our genes; why would your body ever want to be overweight? Why would your body want to remain in a state that makes it harder to move, more difficult to breathe, slower to run and generally less healthful? Sure, a few extra pounds over the winter months to get you through the seasonal food scarcity makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. A few extra pounds, not dozens and dozens of them. Why would your body remain in this state unless it couldn’t burn the fat because it didn’t have the nutrients required to do so?
This site is primarily about an idea – what if the obesity epidemic is caused by nutritional deficiency? If you’re overweight, surely your hunger is driven by nutritional deficiency rather than a shortage of energy, otherwise your fat would be used as an energy source to return the body back to its natural, healthy and efficient weight. Now, by nutrients, I’m talking about carbs, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. A balanced diet is one where the body has sufficient nutrients to thrive.

It’s  compellingly simple. What would this mean if it were true? It means if you are overweight, you are suffering (or have suffered – more on this later) from malnourishment. It means all the other diseases related to obesity, from type 2 diabetes to certain cancers could be tracked back to a lack of nutrients as the cause. It also means it should theoretically be easy to treat. So, where’s the proof?

Cornflakes and the secret sauce

What has Kellogg’s added to their food from the 1930s onwards that has made them the biggest cereal manufacturer in the world? Vitamins. It’s a process known as fortification. Did they do it for the good of the people? Well, ‘you are what you eat’ was the founding principle of W.K. Kellogg, but then another of his founding principles, strangely omitted from the Kellogg’s  website, is that a good wholesome and nutritious food was one which stopped you tossing yourself silly, a strapline presumably Kellogg's binned in early market research. He believed  sexual thoughts to be the underlying cause of everything from throat disease to acne. He offers some advice (1) for dealing with the problem:

"The barn, the garret, the water-closet, and sometimes secluded places in the woods, are the favorite resorts of masturbators. They should be carefully followed and watched, unobserved."

Pervert.

Anyway, back to fortification. Does the vitamin and mineral content of food affect how much we want to eat of it? Sheep actively prefer feed enhanced with calcium, phosphorous and sodium enhanced feed (2). A number of studies have done on rats – they seek out potassium and magnesium enriched foods when deficient, and they have a preference for B-vitamin enhanced foods (3,4,5,6 and 7).  And as every responsible dog owner will tell you, when dogs start licking soil, they’re likely deficient in minerals so you should get over to the vet quick smart. If fortifying had these kind of effects on animals, what effect does it have on humans?

Unfortunately, you can’t ethically induce vitamin deficiency on humans, unless you’re name’s Pol Pot, so the majority of experiments are animal based.  But consider pregnancy. Pregnant women and their cravings are legendary. The theory that this is because the body craves certain minerals, is not all that popular because the body only needs minute quantities of minerals. However, if for some reason you couldn’t absorb the nutrients (due to say, damage to your gastro-intestinal tract), you’d need considerably more than the standard recommended daily quantities, right?

Of course, if obesity is on the rise due to nutrient deficiencies, food cravings in pregnant women should also be increasing. And indeed they are - 50 years ago, 30% of pregnant women had cravings. In 2008, a study revealed that’s shot up to 75% (8)

So, you can see that foods rich with vitamins and minerals can affect  appetite. The theory is called specific appetite, and it’s mostly a learned response, meaning that if you’ve never tasted spinach for example in your life, you’re unlikely to develop a taste for it. It could be for this reason that when introducing new foods to children it can take multiple attempts before they grow to like them – it happens once their body decides they ‘need’ them.

With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder Kelloggs started spraying his cereals with vitamins. It makes people eat more of them.

Why black women are shrinking

If obesity is caused by deficiency of nutrients – or malnutrition – this should be visible in many other ways other than just weight gain, and indeed it is.

Obesity has been linked to vitamin D deficiency, which in turn stunts growth. Black women are the most effected by obesity in the US (poverty > food insecurity > obesity links are well established), so no surprise then in this report which tells us the average US black woman has shrunk in height by ¾ inch: And before anyone can say genes  - not at all – the richer they are, the taller they get (9).

The obese are malnourished

What else? Zinc, copper, manganese and iron deficiencies found have been found in obese mice (10). Magnesium deficiency in obese children has been discovered, now firmly linked to type 2 diabetes (11). And interestingly vitamin A levels have been tied to reverse cholesterol transport (12) – ie how the body disposes of cholesterol. If you were deficient in vitamin A this would help explain why the obese have such high cholesterol levels.

And these studies are coming in thick and fast. In two meta studies of vitamins and mineral deficiencies (13,14), it concludes that vitamins A, B12, and D are low in obese patients. Not only that, but when it comes to minerals, they're in a league of their own. In studies of morbidly obese patients, deficiencies in selenium, magnesium, iron, chromium and zinc were found. The full gamut of minerals and a few vitamins too. All deficient.

The body’s first instinct is for survival at any cost – if that means putting on extra weight to find the nutrients it needs, then so be it. Its secondary concern would then be to metabolise excess fat as an energy store. Maybe given the diet the body is presented with, it’ll take nutrients for day to day functioning but turn off further hunger for fat metabolism in the hope that it’ll build up an excess store of necessary nutrients for metabolism. But that never happens, and the fat just accumulates.

Given then that it has been repeatedly proven the obese are lacking in nutrients, and that appetite is affected by the nutritional value of foods, isn’t it completely plausible that obesity is caused by hunger driven the body’s lack of nutrients?

3 biggest causes of nutritional deficiency

If we’re not getting enough nutrients, how does this happen? There’s only three possibilities – either:
1) We’re not eating enough
2) We’re eating foods/absorbing something that strip our body of nutrients
2) We cannot absorb the nutrients we are eating
The first is pretty clear cut; junk food generally has all the nutrients extracted out of it forcibly at birth, and by the time it hits your stomach, it has all the goodness of a bag of marbles. But what could we be eating that’s stripping our body of nutrients? And what could cause malabsorption on a global scale?

Coming up next: what foods are stripping us of nutrients, what’s the key behind the obesity epidemic and some astonishing evidence …

References:

1)      Kelloggs’ masterpiece on the dangers on ‘filthy’,’dirty’, sexual thoughts: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19924/19924-h/19924-h.htm#p378

2)      Mangesium deficiency in obese children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15855585

3) Food cravings in pregnant women: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7370524.stm

4) Rats and appetite affected by mineral content: http://endo.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/22/2/214

5)      Rats and calcium intake:  http://physrev.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/81/4/1567

6)      Potassium appetite of rats:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B8H4J-4NRF34W-8&_user=10&_coverDate=01/31/1972&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b530fee0ef9a2750e1a35a449c7718a6&searchtype=a

7)      Sheep prefer calcium, phosphorous and sodium enhanced feed: http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/abstract/jas.2007-0189v1

8)      Rats and magnesium appetite:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WB2-45CWNRT-G&_user=10&_coverDate=02/28/2002&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1488142769&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=a15306eabd29da58037e29ddd4cdf206&searchtype=a

9)      Natural appetite for B vitamins in rats: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/34/5/471

10)      Black women are shrinking: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-12-25/news/0812240595_1_black-women-john-komlos-taller).

11)      Magnesium deficiencies in obese children: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/504408

12)   Mineral deficiencies in obese mice: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/116/8/1432

13)   Vitamin A and reverse cholesterol transport: http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v15/n2/full/oby2007534a.html

14)   Vitamin deficiencies in the obese: http://www.springerlink.com/content/w041000j56gk8033/

15)   Mineral deficiencies in the obese: http://www.springerlink.com/content/64m778p633142256/

Photo copyright F Mafra

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. on your 3 biggest causes you mentioned the number 2 twice : )

  2. Excellent website, great insight and the cause of much discussion in our house. I am surprised how many people I mention your site to are interested! Good work


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